Volunteer Opportunities at an Animal Rescue Center in Costa Rica

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Announcing $12,000 in Scholarships for First Time Travelers!

In 2019, Greenheart Travel will provide scholarship grants to individuals who are “first time travelers” and have the desire for travel and cultural immersion. Our First Time Traveler Scholarships will be available for our Teach English Abroad, TEFL Course, Work Abroad, Homestay Abroad, High School Study Abroad, Teen Summer Language Camp, and Volunteer programs.


Based on a private ecological reserve in the rainforests of northern Costa Rica, this Eco-Reserve and Animal Rescue Center was founded to give endangered, injured and abandoned animals a home. Volunteers a the project focus on rehabilitating animals and releasing the back into the wild.

Volunteers will have a chance to help:
-- Feed, observe and administer general care to animals
-- With various conservation projects
-- Work in the greenhouse
-- Maintain trails on the reserve
-- With construction of new habits
-- With community outreach efforts in the area

Program fees: (request additional pricing for longer program lengths on our website)
1 Week: $1,540
2 Weeks: $2,070
3 Weeks: $2,470
4 Weeks: $3,100

  • Accommodation with a host family and meals included during your volunteer program
  • Start dates are year round, and programs can last from 1 week - 12 weeks
  • Group volunteer opportunities available
  • Each volunteer has a personal program manager to help before, during and after your program
  • Spanish lessons available on-site for additional cost

Questions & Answers

Hi, great question! You don't need any prior knowledge about animal care. Just yourself and enthusiasm about making a difference :)
For someone who speaks absolutely no Spanish it may be fairly difficult. However, it depends on how courageous and willing they are to be out of their element. My host family spoke absolutely no English. I lucked out and for the first half of my time I spent with my host family there was another person doing the same program. She was fluent in Spanish and would translate everything for me. For the...


based on 12 reviews
  • Impact 9.5
  • Support 9.9
  • Fun 8.7
  • Value 8.9
  • Safety 9.6
Showing 1 - 12 of 12

Proyecto Asis

When I first arrived, I was nervous and way too on guard. Everyone involved in the program was friendly and helpful, and allowed me to trust everything in this program. Within my first few days, I felt completely at home, and was adjusted to the culture. Everyone was super friendly, and we had a lot of free time to explore and spend time with the family and friends we had. I really felt like i was making a difference at the animal shelter, which was awesome. Over the weekends, there is an opportunity to go on excursions and explore the city. I hiked, kayaked, and visited hot springs. This experience is what made the trip so unforgettable, but it would have been helpful to know the prices and details of these excursions beforehand. Overall great trip, and I would definitely go back.

How can this program be improved?
Being able to talk with the host family beforehand, more details about side excursions
Yes, I recommend this program
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I went my junior summer of high school, and coming back to my senior year, everything was different. This program had a big enough impact for me to change my major and college choices. The people (Rosi and her family in particular) are the NICEST, most caring people I have ever met. Also, working one on one with the animals and staff really gives you a new perspective on things.

How can this program be improved?
I would only change the cost!
Yes, I recommend this program
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animal rescue and rehab review

This trip was an amazing experience. From trying to converse with my host family, to joking with Teniente our boss and just hanging with the other volunteers and doing cool things like visiting the beach on the weekends I had a spectacular time.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Pura Vida

They say Pura Vida (Pure Life) a lot in Costa Rica...and it's no joke. My experience in Costa Rica was just utterly amazing and I completely fell in love with this little Central American country and Proyecto Asis. I would highly recommend it. Why?

First of all the country. It's a lot different from Western society (in a good way), the houses are small and feel very homely, the roads are mad and chaotic, the food is simple but very delicious (and YES they do eat a lot of rice and beans!!!) and the colours are so bright and vibrant. Moreover, the landscape their just takes your breath away. Costa Rica is worth going just to see the place. Second, the people. The 'Ticos' are beautiful people, they are so chilled, so friendly and so happy. It's a very positive place and I had SO much fun and banter with these people. They live simply, they make do and mend, they are self-sustained, there's a lot we in the Western world could learn from them.

The third reason to go would be for the project and experience of living with a host family. I gained a new family in Costa Rica and I just loved living a whole month with them. At first it's scary, if you're Spanish isn't great (like mine WAS) then it's hard to communicate, but bring them a present and some photos of home, really try to communicate to them and try out their way of life and you'll have a great time. I learnt a lot of about myself and how we lived life back home staying with my family and I think it's a really useful experience. And don't scared, they're all incredibly friendly but most of all they cook you all your food - I can't tell how good a cook my host Mum was! - clean all your clothes, talk to you lots if you talk to them and by the end of your time they'll probably be sadder than you when you leave them! All the host families I came across had had many students before them and knew what they're were doing.

Proyecto Asis, where you'll be working, is brilliant. And now is a great time to go. They're expanding the project, it looks really modern and slick and it's really well run and looked after. The animals are SO much fun and the types they have there are phenomenal - animals I never expected to see in my life! Tucans, Macaws, Sloths, Spider Monkeys, White Faced Monkeys and Hummingbirds are just some of the animals they have there. The first week I was there I couldn't stop thinking how lucky I was to have this 'job'. The job includes mostly cleaning cages, which can actually be fun as you go inside and they start jumping on you and playing with your hair etc, however, we also deep cleaned some, built bridges, transported materials, painted cages, fed animals. It's pretty darn cool! They're doing a really good job at taking in, re-habiliting and then releasing these animals into the wild again. However, what makes Proyecto is the people. Meeting other volunteers is good fun and you will have a good laugh together. One thing I learnt though was to go in June/July as not many people volunteer in August when I went and so it got dull at times. The Ticos at the project are LEGENDS! Look out for these names: Teniente, Ruben, Carlos, Maria Laina and Gonzalo. Trust me, some of the coolest people you will ever meet and they make your work so enjoyable - especially Teniente the man who's in charge of you. Have fun with them and they'll have fun with you. The managers of the place Adriana and Alvero are really helpful, they help you plan your weekends - my weekends including white water rafting, kayaking, hanging canopy bridges and a weekend at the beach!!! - sort any problems you're having and you can ask them about anything basically.

Fourthly if you're looking to improve your Spanish, providing you give it a go, this will happen. Don't expect instant results (like I did), give it time or 'un poco a poco' as they told me, and eventually you'll be having proper conversations with them. It all depends on what level you're at before you go so try to learn as much as you can.

That's it I think. Any tips I would offer would be:
- 3 weeks is the optimum amount of time before you start maybe getting sick of the food or get bored of the routine or really miss home.
- Learn as much Spanish as you can before you go and read about the country/culture.
- Be open minded! Give everything ago. And don't panic/be terrified. Have faith, it's not as backwards a country as you think it is.
- Take a camera, dictionary, sun cream, insect repellent and itch cream. Take summer clothing; you will only be wearing tank tops, a baseball cap, shorts and flip-flops in your free time. Although take crappy clothing for excursions and working at Proyecto - you WILL get very dirty and smelly!
- Get ready for a different life, a different routine, a different climate and different food. But don't be scared of that, embrace it, it's actually really cool to experience.
- Try not to limit yourself with money. There are some really cool experiences on offer and perhaps you'll never get the chance to do them again, take the opportunity!


How can this program be improved?
The programme isn't flawless. For example they don't tell you ANYTHING about your host family, the area you're staying in or any other volunteers you'll be going with which doesn't help the nerves. My knowledge about the project itself was limited and the photos they gave me were old and not very explanatory.

They don't tell you how much money to bring or how much you'll probably spend. Estimates could have been useful for a lot of the volunteers. Nor do they tell you very well how far away things are for weekend entertainment or how often the buses come (only every 1.5-2.5 hours).

Pre-arrival information was good, but I'm from the UK and we had to call a lot of times to Greenheart to check things like do I need X and will Y happen for example. Actual examples included we almost didn't realise we needed a ESTA form, and I didn't know about my arrangements from the airport to my hotel, and then from there to the Proyecto. Also, we found it hard to understand how to call Greenheart as all these toll numbers and international numbers etc were confusing, just tell it simply what you need to do!
Yes, I recommend this program
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I had a great time!

I had such an amazing time in Costa Rica! I got to experience new things and try new foods. I got to go on excursions like white water rafting, ziplining, and I got to see a waterfall. I also enjoyed getting to go to La Fortuna.

How can this program be improved?
I would change the price, when I first heard that it cost around $2000 to go, I thought an airplane ticket would be included. I felt like that was a lot of money to go and volunteer.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Important work and a wonderful experience

This trip to Costa Rica was my first time traveling alone AND my first trip outside of my own country. I stayed for one week--from July 28th to August 3rd. I was terrified beforehand but really shouldn't have been. The staff and people are all so friendly and helpful, and I rarely felt overwhelmed or lost. This program is a perfect blend of meaningful work, cultural immersion, and fun activities.

The work itself ranges from feeding and cuddling baby porcupines or possums to mixing concrete to build stairs, from cleaning cages to chopping up food for the animals. Along the way you learn a lot about the issues that face wildlife in Costa Rica, and you learn why each of the animals are there. We usually kept relatively busy, but it wasn't as structured as I expected, and we often had to just wander around looking for a staff person to tell us what to do. But whenever we weren't working we could just play with the monkeys or explore the project. Anyway, it was really important work and fun to do.

I also learned a lot about the culture. Staying with a host family was so rewarding. During my stay I had long conversations about Costa Rica and its people, witnessed lots of soccer games in the backyard, and attended a service for the Day of La Virgen de Los Angeles. My Spanish also improved rapidly--I was using it all the time except with other volunteers, which was incredibly cool! Many staff members and host families speak no English at all, so I definitely definitely stress the importance of knowing at least intermediate Spanish before coming on this trip--especially when traveling away from the project.

The staff is also very willing to, among other things, plan weekend excursions for you--anything from zip lining to rafting to visiting hot springs. I had a great time doing a canopy tour in La Fortuna with other volunteers, arranged at the front desk of the project.

I never had a boring moment during my short stay in Costa Rica. Even if you didn't have something structured to go do, it was always fun to just explore or talk with the locals or your other volunteers. It's a breathtakingly beautiful place, really important work, tons of fun, and a fascinating experience. I always felt safe too. I recommend this trip to anyone as long as they're reasonably adaptable and love nature. As you can see, I was only there for a week and I can't shut up about it.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Loved it!!

This program was really just amazing for me. I met so many great charismatic people all over the States & Canada, not to mention the wonderful staff! It was also an experience stock full of hands on working with the animals and being able to interact with them and learn about them. Honestly I wish I could have stayed longer, two weeks was not enough.

Yes, I recommend this program
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well Organized

My daughter Anna went to Costa Rica with Green Heart, to volunteer at Proyecto Asis from July 8 to the 19th.
She was very happy with her host family, her volunteer work at the center and the overall experience.
The Greenheart staff, was very helpful and answer all my concerns in a timely fashion all the time. We are considering other programs with them.

Myrta Echevarria
Happy mom!

How can this program be improved?
Not sure what to add!
Yes, I recommend this program
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Volunteer at Proyecto Asis

My experience in Costa Rica was nothing but amazing. I was so nervous at first due to it being the first time I would be traveling alone to a different country. At first, it was almost impossible to speak to my host family due to my lack of spanish. It was scary at first, but my worries were quickly demolished as soon as I settled in around my second day. I began to use hand gestures and got the hang of things.

My second day I went to the project. I loved all the animals there. I was able to feed them, build cages, sweep leaves, clean their cages, and really do anything the project staff wanted me to. I fell in love with the animals as well as the other volunteers that were staying at different host families. I became such good friends with all of them. After the project we would go to each others host families and hang out. My first weekend there we all went to activities together like zip lining and a hanging bridges tour.

I truly believe everyone needs to experience this trip. We was definitely life changing. Staying with a host family made my trip so much better. I was able to experience the Costa Rican way of life. As well as helping animals.

How can this program be improved?
I really loved the project. My only wish is that I would have stayed longer. I only stayed for a week and a half and I wish I stayed for at least two weeks if not three.
Yes, I recommend this program
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Great Experience

Even though my son stayed a short time last summer, but he had a wonderful experience and the family he stayed with were very friendly and treated him really well. We will definitely do this next summer for a longer period of time.

How can this program be improved?
The host mother was very nice to do my son's laundry and other things. But I would have liked to see him being more independent and do his laundry or more housework.
Yes, I recommend this program
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A Learning/maturing Experience

I went on this trip as my first "traveling alone" trip at age 16! I was so excited and the experience did not let me down. Being half Latina, it helped with understanding some of the cultural aspects but I definitely learned more spanish out of everything. Me being non-fluent, I was kind of scared how well I would be able to communicate but all-in-all I was able to communicate quite freely. The volunteer aspect was great being able to work with animals that I had never even seen before. I learned a lot about how important wildlife and natural habitats are. Although there is always a lot of work, it is fun work and I would definitely go again if I had the opportunity. Being only 16, I was told to be very careful on where I go but in the town that I was in and the local inner-cities, I felt very safe. My host family was very nice and generous as well. The mother cooked awesome food and has darling children who I got to hang out with. I kept an open mind going in and I came out with new experiences under my belt and a humble outlook on my busy american life. I definitely would recommend this for groups or for people traveling alone. It truly is an awesome experience to learn about the wildlife of Costa Rica.

Yes, I recommend this program
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Beautiful landscape, Wonderful people, Awesome experience

I couldn't have asked for a better volunteer experience. I went with a friend and our host family was extremely nice and helpful, as was the entire staff at the rescue center.
The staff really go above and beyond to make sure you get the most out of your experience. They helped us plan weekend activities like canopy tours or a trip to the beach, and they would call us up to see if we wanted to go out for drinks or dinners. They were always willing to drive us into La Fortuna to do some shopping or use the internet cafes.
The actual work was a really cool experience. Every day we got to feed the animals, and actually get up close and personal, playing with the raccoons, or holding Benjamin, the kinkajou (when he's not sleeping.) The center is right in the middle of the jungle and it absolutely breathtaking. The projects vary. During my month as a volunteer, we built a huge cage for a falcon, which involved pouring cement, painting, putting in posts, nailing on the wires, etc. We also cut down some bamboo to make a bird perch, worked in the greenhouse, built a railing for one of the bridges, and cleared the paths (with a machete, my favorite part.) One of my favorite things about the center is that they use materials from the jungle for almost everything. The railings were made out of bamboo that we cut down ourselves, as is almost the entire greenhouse, and when we needed posts for the bird house, we just went to the forest and chopped down some trees, then peeled off the bark with our machetes.
We were productive, but at the same time, the atmosphere was relaxed, and we had a lot of fun during the working hours.
This program gives you the opportunity to see exotic things every day that you would never be able to see anywhere else. Like a toucan that tries to steal your lunch, a bunch of raccoons that love nothing more than to be sprayed by a hose, beautiful bright macaws, a crazy monkey, and all types of exotic plants, fruits and flowers.
Plus, they are happy to let you spend a day or two working at a women's banana paper workshop or at an orphanage.
I loved my time there and miss being a part of the project!

Yes, I recommend this program

About Greenheart Travel

Greenheart Travel is a 501(c)3 non-profit, mission driven organization based in Chicago, USA. We are passionate about providing immersive cultural immersion experiences for teenagers and adults in countries all over the world.

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